Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed Thursday in Tokyo their cooperation in fighting cyberattacks and handling tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
During their talks at the Defense Ministry, Onodera and Hagel also welcomed an agreement signed by officials earlier in the day to create a bilateral framework to discuss cybersecurity measures to counter attacks on government agencies and other organizations, often blamed on China and North Korea.
Japan and the U.S. will cooperate in training personnel capable of countering such new borderless threats, while reaffirming they stand side by side over the Japanese-administered islets at the heart of heightened tensions with China, a Japanese official said.
Onodera emphasized that Japan will not tolerate changes to maritime order by the use of force, and will protect its territory. Hagel repeated Washington’s stance that the Senkakus are under the administration of Japan and covered by the Japan-U.S. security treaty, the official said.
“We’d like to share views on the security environment surrounding Japan, including the issue of North Korea,” Onodera told Hagel at the outset of the meeting.
Under the cybersecurity framework, Japanese and U.S. vice ministerial officials will meet twice a year to share information.
Japan and the United States will also bolster cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military by training personnel and conducting joint exercises to cope with cyberattacks, the Defense Ministry said.
After effectively nationalizing the Senkaku Islands in September 2012, Japan has seen an increase in cyberattacks on government agencies and other entities.
Hagel’s visit to Japan came a day after the United States and South Korea signed a joint military strategy in Seoul to counter threats from North Korea’s nuclear arms and chemical weapons programs.
Hagel told Onodera there are new challenges and threats that need to be addressed.
“That is always requiring a review of obligations” in the alliance, he added.
To cope with threats from North Korea, Onodera and Hagel agreed on the importance of trilateral cooperation among Japan, South Korea and the United States.
They reaffirmed their commitment to an early return of land occupied by U.S. facilities south of Kadena Air Base to help reduce Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan.
With opposition remaining strong to the deployment of MV-22 Ospreys to Okinawa due to the aircraft’s checkered safety record, Onodera called on the U.S. to follow through on a bilateral agreement on the aircraft’s operations. Hagel said the U.S. military will continue to ensure safety, according to the Japanese official.
Hagel said at the meeting’s opening there are “new challenges, new threats” that need to be addressed.